Eldraeic Word of the Day: méshválar

méshválar: (from mésh, a tile or plaque, and válaras, name, itself from val, personal pronoun, and laras, word); a name-tile.

The origin of the name-tile is in the simple courtesy of not bringing moisture or road-dust into the home. Imperial houses are normally constructed with a caráhan, an entry room, which serves the purpose of containing outside dirt and providing space for visitors to prepare themselves to enter the house proper, as well as for requesting permission to enter the house proper from its hearthmistress or her proxy. Such a room therefore often contains amenities such as a small fountain for personal refreshment and cupboards or chests for visitors’ shoes, travel clothing, etc., that they do not wish to bring with them into the home, as well as the traditional welcoming display.

The méshválar, a thin porcelain tile bearing its owners name and sigil, serves two purposes connected with this room:

For visitors, the méshválar is placed upon the cupboard or chest in which they have placed their effects, signifying their ownership of the contents. In some caráhan, associated with commercial buildings rather than homes, these containers lock, and once the key has been withdrawn, the méshválar is placed specifically over the lock, but this would not be seen in a private home. The strength of the custom is more than sufficient to guarantee privacy; indeed, should a guest depart without being able to collect their effects, it is usual to ship the entire chest, unopened, to their home.

Meanwhile, when at home, it is customary to place one’s méshválar on a rack located within the caráhan, thus allowing arriving visitors to know who is currently at home before requesting entrance.

Notable Replies

  1. Now, I’m wondering what a decent single family-equivalent dwelling would look like. I suspect it would be this odd hybrid of Japanese and classic American style-mudroom or entryway leading into a main hallway, family rooms to the back, public areas to the front. With the possibility that in smaller dwelling it’s a single large multi-purpose open area with family/private rooms in a loft or similar setup on the next floor.

  2. Avatar for avatar avatar says:

    Not a bad approximation, actually, although throw some Rome in there.

    The basic plan is organized around a central atrium (usually either transparently domed or open to admit the light of suns and moons, even if it’s multiple storeys tall), usually with some blue-greenery and a water feature to provide a nice relaxing central space.

    Where there’s an entryway, it branches off one side of the atrium. In larger houses, there may be a forehall, too, separating the caráhan from the atrium and also offering access to the vehicular entrance if one is present (the forehall is also where the guardroom would join on, in rougher times). Smaller houses may have the caráhan open directly onto the atrium.

    Double doors all the way through for main entrances, outside/caráhan, caráhan/forehall, and forehall/atrium. Depending on where you live, the caráhan may also serve as an airlock, in which case there’s always a forehall.

    The rest of the house is organized in wings built off the atrium. Most commonly, in small houses, they put the public rooms in the “back” wing so their windows all open onto the garden one may want to display, usually with a conservatory-parlor at the end; the “private” and “service” wings take the sides. In larger houses and older houses, this pattern is extended by essentially stacking more atria and wings onto the basic pattern until the ancestral pile needs a staff of full-time pages to help people navigate.

    Smaller houses may not extend up (although they often do; a common pattern is to extend at least the atrium into a tower to provide natural ventilation), but will almost certainly extend down; rare is the house without a basement for the mechanical room, storage, and since most people’s homes are also their workplaces, space for loreworks/laboratory/workshop/autofac/etc. (Those that do tend to make rather more use of the third dimension than we do, with rooms that cross floors, balconies, daises, etc., etc., found frequently, and the central atrium almost always goes all the way up, unless you’re in a skyscraper.)

    Of course, there are lots of local-cultural variations on the basic idea…

  3. So, probably by the same architect that did Lazarus Long’s house on Tetrius?

  4. Avatar for avatar avatar says:

    Been a while since I read that…

  5. Heinlein books just stick in your brain far too well. I can remember most of the juveniles, enough to place them in places.

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